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Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Give Up The Dream?

I received this email from Laura...

I recently came across your page and have to say I found it very enjoyable to read. I always wanted to be a vet however I was a few points short of getting into vet school and so settled for my second option: nutrition and dietetics. Five years later here I am, qualified but still desperately wanting to work with animals. My parents keep telling me that once I work as a dietitian I can volunteer with animals in my spare time and I know they are right but I want it to be a bigger part of my life than that. I know that going into vet school as a grad is not only hard to from the point of view of gaining a place but its also incredibly expensive and I would need to take out a huge loan to afford it. I have been offered a masters in public health here at home, employment within the health system is poor at the moment and so there are no jobs, my only options are a return to college or emigrate. The problem with emigration is the registration and expense of trying to become eligible to practice in another country with no guarantee of a job.
I feel I have to take the offer of the masters in public health however I feel I am once again turning my back on the one thing I have ever wanted to do- work with animals. You mention a few detours on your way to becoming a vet and I was wondering what your advise would be?
This is certainly a tough decision, Laura.  I want people to follow their dreams and find what will really make them happy, but it can also be a financial burden to acquire a veterinary degree and it's becoming harder to pay off that debt.  So it may not be the right decision for you.
I would start by figuring out exactly what it is about animals that you like.  Yes, you want to work with them, but WHY?  Looking inward and discovering the "why" of the desire may help guide you into something.  Do you like just watching them?  Maybe a job at a pet store or zoo.  Do you want to help them out?  Maybe a job as a veterinary assistant or volunteering for a shelter or rescue group.  Do you like the animal-human bond?  Maybe work for a group that uses dogs, cats, and horses as therapy animals for the elderly, special needs, and hospitalized.
But also consider your training and education.  If you have a background in nutrition, could you get education at a university that would be applicable to animal diets?  Perhaps look into getting a job with one of the food companies.  I know that Royal Canin has a research center where the animals are housed and treated as pets, not just put in cages. (And no, I don't work for them).  If you're in an affluent area then perhaps you could get training and set yourself up in business as a pet dietician.  I'm certain that many wealthy people would pay for such a service.  With a Masters in Public Health you could concentrate on diseases transmittable between humans and animals; you wouldn't get direct animal contact most of the time, but it would still be in that field.
In the end you're looking at only a few possibilities.  Most of the jobs working hands-on with animals will require you to switch careers and likely take a substantial pay cut.  Getting a good paying job in the animal or veterinary fields will require money spent in further education.  If you can't spend the money or have a pay cut, then you may have to settle for being a volunteer, which is always needed.  Heck, you could start your own private shelter or rescue group!
My readers may have other suggestions.  Best of luck, Laura.


  1. Thank you so much for the advice Chris. I really appreciate the time and insight. I am going to try and figure out exactly what itis I love abotu animals and hopefully I will get to pursue it.
    All the best and thanks again,

  2. Laura,
    the vet at the practice we bring our dog to trained first in computer science and when she got her computer science degree went back and trained as a vet - AND she is an awesome vet; a kind, caring and really knowledgeable vet with a real passion for her work and it shows in the care of the sick pets - she works long and late hours - there is nothing she doesn't know. I for one am very glad she chose to go back for more studies as veterinary would have missed out on this gem of a vet.

    Chris's advice is good - and I know many vets will, if you look even at this site at many who contribute to Chris's topics - tell you that even if you really love animals, being bitten and attacked by sick and sore (and really unsocial) animals is no fun, even less fun to deal with some of the owners! Its a job that requires much dedication, much knowledge, a LOT of patience and can be mentally and physically draining but for the right people, very rewarding also - but hey - more rewarding to own your own pets, have a good vet to bring them to when they are ill - and just enjoy a well socialised, much loved pet of your own (then don't have to worry about being bitten by someone elses unruly one.

    Best of luck with the difficult decision - but Chris is right - try and figure out what it is that really attracts you and maybe you could get the same benefit from giving time on a weekend to a shelter for abandoned or homeless animals and stick with a well paid job elsewhere.


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